As we enter the final week of Lent, the deep, deep purple of Lenten liturgical environments gives way first to the blazing red of Passion Sunday and Passion week, then briefly breaks into the startling white of Holy Thursday, then back to the blazing red of Good Friday and, finally, to the gentle pastels and pure white of Easter Sunday.
This liturgical color-wheel provides a visual procession from the serious Lenten call to individual and communal conversion — to Holy Thursday’s joyful and somber communion of friends — to Good Friday’s suffering and martyrdom of the Just One — to Easter dawn’s discovery that the tomb is empty.
Why gentle pastels for Easter? Perhaps because these pale and vivid hues surround many of us in the various palettes spring paints across Earth. Often the dawn sky presents itself in pale blue and mauve and lavender shades very unlike the oranges and reds of sunset. Was this the perfect sky to lure the women to the tomb at break of day?
Maybe pastels mirror the mood of resurrection and its witnesses better than deep and vibrant colors would. I imagine that the followers of Jesus were exhausted by the morning of the Sabbath following Jesus’ passion and death. Fear and keen disappointment do that to us.
So, maybe when they first began to have glimmer of a notion, first began to experience the presence of their Teacher and Friend and Brother in new, very real ways … they were tentative, cautious — as many of us were the first time we held a newborn, or the first time we expressed a personal, deeply held conviction.
Perhaps pastels are the color of cautious optimism, of renewed hope for the future that the seasons of our lives do indeed repeat the cycle of repenting-suffering-dying-being reborn, revived and renewed.
Perhaps pastels coax us into trusting our individual and collective experiences of Life to overcome the powers of suffering and death. Pastels don’t insist or demand our constant presence at the tombs of life; they gently lead us to the shore where we find Jesus — in one of his followers — cooking breakfast for us. And as we break that bread, lovingly prepared and shared, we coax one another to take one small but sure step deeper into the vivid life of an Easter people, the brilliant and shining life of an alleluia people. The Sisters of Providence pray that you know the gentle and enduring presence of our Risen Brother Jesus! Happy Easter from all of us!